What is a Sustainable Event?
I feel like the words 'Sustainable' and 'Sustainability' seem to be used more and more of late, and rightly so. People are thinking about the Economy, Health and Wellbeing, and the Environment, so its a hot topic and it means different things to different people.
In this blog, I will be exploring what Sustainability means in terms of Events and why on Earth we should care about it!
A Sustainable event has concern for Environmental, Economic and Social Issues, or to put this in simple terms its about making the right choices for:
People, The Planet and ensuring its financially viable and it will make you a Profit or at least benefit you in the long term.
Examples of Sustainable Choices
It is more important than ever before to look after our Health and Wellbeing especially in the current climate. This goes for your attendees and the staff working at your event. Plan in some time during the event for attendees to get outside, Meditate or why not extend their visit and give people time to explore the surrounding, Town/ City or Countryside.
Ensure staff working at the event take sufficient breaks and work on a rota system so they are kept within bubbles and are not working extra long days
Choose a sustainable venue - one that uses Solar Power, that harvests their rainwater, and who have great recycling in place
Choose a local caterer to provide local fresh, healthy food. Food will need to be boxed to be Covid safe, but set up a plan to deliver any left over unopened items to local good causes.
Work with a waste management partner to ensure you have recycling in place and know what materials you can and can't use, or shouldn't use from the beginning.
Try to design items that can be re-used. Provided there are no dates printed on there, your exhibition stand can be used the following year.
Try not to over order on catering. By asking Delegates to confirm their choices and registering in advance you are not only complying with Track and Trace , it also give you the chance to plan for the exact numbers attending. This will reduce your spend on food and reduce waste.
Of course this is not an exhaustive list, and there are a number of ways in which you can be more sustainable , but why is it important?.
It is no secret that events can be hugely wasteful. With many items sourced for a single use. Not only damaging to the environment. Its also an expensive business and it can damage your reputation too.
Jessica Keynes from Waste Management Company: Biffa recently wrote that
On average, music festivals generate 23,500 tonnes of waste including plastic bottles, food containers, food waste, clothing and abandoned tents
And its not just Festivals. Exhibitions are notoriously wasteful, plastic banners and display stands, that are quite often used once and then disposed of. Printed flyers and business cards and even carpet that are used once and then binned.
However things are changing. Suppliers are starting to provide alternative materials such as bamboo, or cardboard, and organisations are favouring digital displays which look pretty cool and QR codes over business cards which I'm sure you've come across especially with the number of pubs and restaurants using them for online ordering.
The Bigger Picture
So we know that events are wasteful. So what?. Well back in 2015 the UN created 17 Sustainable Development Goals which address the global challenges we face from poverty, and global hunger to climate change and inequality, and the challenge is to achieve all 17 goals by 2030, which just to point out is ONLY 10 years away!
In December 2016 a climate emergency was first declared, which means we must act now to have any impact on global warming and climate change.
Luckily Governments are waking up to this and last year, Theresa May signed into law the ambitious target of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Since then of course we've had Brexit, Theresa has stepped down, oh yeah and Corona Virus has hit the world. So where are we one year on?
Well in some ways the environment has benefitted; reports of clearer water, clearer skies, and less pollution, which was great for a few months. But now we are back on the move and we have additional battles to face. The introduction of PPE, new rules and regulations, mini branded bottles of hand sanitiser being handed out at every opportunity.
So now we're not only dealing with plastic bottles, we are also fighting against face masks ending up in the ocean.
What can we do?
Its easy to think its someone else's problem. But knowing how wasteful events can be I believe that we as Event Organisers and businesses wanting to hold events, have a responsibility to not only ensure our events are safe but they are sustainable too.
If we are to reach the target of net zero by 2050 and support the SDG's as much as we can then we have to play our part.
What Covid has given us is time to re-think, re-charge, and be ready for the return of events. So when we're doing temperature checks at the entrance, and implementing Track and Trace systems we should be thinking about how Sustainability and safety go hand in hand.
Look out for future blog posts from me as I explore Sustainability in different types of events. Do also look out for my plastic-free challenge coming soon to Instagram. @greensenseevents
If you require a Sustainable Event Management Service, or would like to talk to me further about how to plan a Sustainable event please contact Green Sense Events for a free consultation. firstname.lastname@example.org